Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Andres Iniesta is key to Barcelona's success.
Andres Iniesta is key to Barcelona's success.
Andres Iniesta is key to Barcelona's success.

Iniesta, the silent hero

Barcelona's 2-0 weekend victory over Athletic Bilbao ended a slump which had seen them winless in six games.

BARCELONA // Barcelona's 2-0 weekend victory over Athletic Bilbao ended a slump which had seen them winless in six games. Pep Guardiola appears to have overcome the first stumble of his nascent managerial career with his glorious reputation still intact and Barca continuing to chase trophies on three fronts. The Catalans head the Primera Liga by six points and have a place secured in May's Copa del Rey final, but it is in Europe where their ultimate ambitions lie.

The return from injury of midfielder Andres Iniesta was as welcome as victory against Atheltic, especially when he won the penalty which opened the scoring. The playmaker is expected to start against French champions Lyon in the Camp Nou tonight, with the tie balanced at 1-1 after a tired looking Barca performance in the Stade Gerland. Lacking the strength in depth of Manchester United to fight convincingly for several trophies, Barca missed the extra dimensions Iniesta brings to their formidable attack. He is a performer of the highest calibre and his talents and experience will be as crucial as Lionel Messi's if Barca are to lift their third European Cup.

He was the only player to start in all six games of Spain's successful European Championship campaign last summer - an achievement which saw him honoured with a street named after him in his home village of Fuentealbilla, near Albacete. The player dubbed the "anti- galactico" by the Catalan press for his shy demeanour joined Barca as a 12-year-old and made his first team debut aged 18 in 2002. A Barca regular since 2004, his vision and speed of thought has seen him used in a more attacking role by new coach Guardiola.

While Iniesta is a key addition against Lyon, Barca will miss their warrior-like captain Carles Puyol who damaged ankle ligaments on Saturday. To compound the problem, Puyol had been playing at left back to cover for Eric Abidal. Lyon will be looking to exploit Barca's recently exposed defence, yet they have significant problems of their own. The Ligue 1 leaders lost 2-0 to Lille at the Stade de France on Saturday, and saw their lead over Paris St Germain at the top of the table cut to just one point. Worse, the slight hip injury carried by their top striker Karim Benzema, was exacerbated. Benzema, 21, a Barca target, remains a doubt for tonight.

His importance was summed up by the Lyon boss Claude Puel who said: "We have to keep Benzema. It's essential and a priority for the future of the club." Without the softly-spoken striker, who has scored 12 goals in 18 Champions League games, Lyon could fail to match their first-leg heroics. amitten@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike puts Al Jazira on verge of qualifying for the last 16 of Asian Champions League

All to play for across East Asia during final round of group phase.

 Manchester City's Vincent Kompany reacts after being sent off by referee Lee Mason during their English Premier League soccer match against Hull City at the KC stadium in Hull, northern England March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini says Vincent Kompany is an important player

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini defends team captain and talks about team's injuries ahead of clash with Sunderland at home on Wednesday night.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

 Jacques Kallis top-scored with 72 for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Kallis kicks off IPL 7 with fifty as Kolkata thrash Mumbai

South African legend shows class is permanent as Knight Riders beat defending champions by 41 runs. Osman Samiuddin reports from Abu Dhabi.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National